Today, buyers place more trust in their peers’ opinions than anything a salesperson can tell them. Thanks to review websites and social media, people are better informed than ever before they make buying decisions. Brands now need a virtual “thumbs up” in the online world to be taken seriously by modern buyers.
So, how can they do this? Enter the concept of social selling, which suggests organizations increase their reach and relevancy through the power of peer-to-peer connections, not pushy sales tactics.
Jill Rowley, social selling evangelist, says that to do this, the skillset of the modern salesperson must evolve. “You have to look as good online as you do offline.” Aside from becoming digitally savvy, sales teams must serve others first. By arming potential promoters with the tools to be successful, sales teams can build a network of advocates—who will spread the word about their product or service for them. “It’s your job to make your customers successful. If they become successful, they become the best salespeople.”
This thinking is the reason we invited Jill to speak at Advocamp 2016, the biggest event about harnessing customer success to fuel business growth. (Click here to watch Jill’s Advocamp AMP Talk presentation from 2015).
Here’s some of her advice on how salespeople should approach social selling.
Changing your organization’s selling mindset
Getting your message in front of buyers is about building genuine connections, not hunting potential clients. “Become a magnet for attracting customers, partners and thought-leaders,” says Jill. “If people see you as a source of awesome information and networking opportunities, your organization will start to collectively attract more people.”
She says this starts with changing your vocabulary. Jill refuses to call potential clients ‘prospects’ or ‘targets.’ “I use the term ‘future advocate.’ Nobody wants to be prospected.” This shift can help sales teams focus on serving customers at every stage of the customer life cycle, turning them from prospective buyers into rabid fans and, eventually, loyal advocates that will help with your selling efforts.
Secondly, sales teams—and organization at large—need to change reward models to incentivize behavior around building relationships with appropriate potential advocates. Basing commission on long-term measures, such as customer success after onboarding, can change your team’s ‘quota crushing’ mentality. “Playing the long game focuses people on customer success and advocacy.”
Once your sales team is ready to help customers succeed before they make a sale, they can build a network of advocates that will help your brand “surround” clients with positive word of mouth.
Surround selling complements social selling
According to Jill, surround selling is a part of social selling. Surrounding your buyers, online and off, with valuable content that comes from people within your brand’s network is the best way to create social proof for your product or service. “Let other people sing your praises. Don’t sing your own,” says Jill. Buyers are more likely to be influenced by a trusted peer, advisor or thought leader, than a salesperson.
“Focus more energy on amplifying the voices of the people you’re trying to elevate,” says Jill. “When you retweet someone they feel compelled to engage with you, and they will remember you.” Aside from strengthening your connection, it will also help build your advocate’s profile. This means they’ll be able to influence a bigger network when you need them to.
Shifting from selling to serving
If salespeople focus on helping potential customers before they think about selling to them, it will lead to more loyalty and gratitude. Jill says the best ways to do this is by helping potential advocates solve a business problem or achieve a career goal. Create connections and opportunities by introducing them to other customers, or give them a chance to contribute to your content. Just make sure these instances are always about promoting them, not about getting your brand mentioned. “If that’s your agenda, don’t do it,” warns Jill.
When reaching out to a future advocate, Jill says many salespeople don’t do enough online research. Only get in touch if you can offer something of value, like an introduction to another peer, or a relevant piece of content or news. Search their social profiles for ideas and look for common connections.
Once the connection is established, follow their online activity carefully. This will help you stay aligned with what your customers find important and keep you involved in their conversations.
However, there’s a fine line between connecting and being creepy. Only engage when it’s relevant, or appropriate for the kind of relationship you have, says Jill.
Empowering social and surround selling
Jill recommends that organizations implement some policies and education around employee social media use. “There has to be training on when it’s appropriate to engage, what’s appropriate to share, and what’s not.” Next, creating and promoting customer success needs to become a part of your company’s culture. She suggests making one person the lead on your social strategy and metrics.
Turning your sales team into a social connection machine will benefit your entire company. “Empowering all of your employees to use their skills and knowledge to advocate for your company will help you become more visible and relevant to the modern buyer.”
Jill says when brands change their mentality from promoting oneself to promoting the success of others they will build authentic, mutually beneficial relationships with advocates.
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